Residents of Georgia’s north-eastern Pankisi gorge, populated predominantly by ethnic Kists, a sub-group of the Chechen people, call on the Georgian authorities to unveil details of the ongoing investigation into the State Security Service’s December 26 operation.
The demands were voiced by local elders and representatives of Salafi community at a meeting in village Duisi in the house of Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was shot during the detention operation and succumbed to his injuries on January 10.
Khaso Khangoshvili, one of the elders, told the journalists after the meeting that Pankisi gorge residents wanted to meet with the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, Irakli Shotadze.
“We would like to know how far the investigation has advanced … whether it was necessary to carry out the counter-terrorism operation, to use these forms, these humiliating methods … whether it was necessary to open fire [at Temirlan Machalikashvili],” Khangoshvili noted.
Muraz Goderdzishvili, one of the speakers, said Pankisi gorge residents had questions “on whether it was necessary to demonstrate power.” “As it concerns the investigation, we have not met anyone and we have not been informed on how the investigation is proceeding,” Goderdzishvili added.
Malkhaz Machalikashvili, Temirlan Machalikashvili’s father, spoke to the press as well, stressing his son’s innocence and reiterating his earlier demand to grant victim’s status to the deceased. He also called on Head of the State Security Service, Vakhtang Gomelauri, to resign.
Temirlan Machalikashvili was one of the five citizens of Georgia who were apprehended in a double operation in Tbilisi and Pankisi gorge of Akhmeta District on December 26 on charges of assisting the group of terror suspects, who allegedly plotted attacks on diplomatic missions in Georgia and Turkey.
Machalikashvili was shot in the head during the operation. According to the State Security Service (SSS), he attempted to resist the security forces and tried to detonate a hand grenade, to which the SSS operatives responded with “proportional force.” Machalikashvili’s family members deny this and claim he was asleep when the officers entered his room and opened fire.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, investigation into Machalikashvili’s wounding was launched under article 333 (paragraph 3, subparagraph b) of the Criminal Code of Georgia involving “exceeding official powers through use of violence or firearm,” which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of five to eight years, with deprivation of the right to hold an official position or to carry out a particular activity for up to three years.